HC Deb 15 April 1986 vol 95 cc829-48 10.10 pm
Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

I beg to move,

That the Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings (General) (Amendment) Regulations 1986 (S.I., 1986, No. 274), dated 17th February 1986, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be revoked. It may be for the convenience of the House if we take at the same time the following motions: That the Legal Advice and Assistance (Amendment) Regulations 1986 (S.I., 1986, No. 275), dated 17th February 1986, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be revoked. That the Legal Aid (Assessment of Resources) (Amendment) Regulations 1986 (S.I., 1986, No. 276), dated 17th February 1986, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be revoked. That the Legal Advice and Assistance (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 1986 (S.I., 1986, No. 254), dated 14th February 1986, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be revoked. That the Legal Aid (Scotland) (Assessment of Resources) (Amendment) Regulations 1986 (S.I., 1986, No. 253), dated 14th February 1986, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be revoked. That the Legal Advice and Assistance (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1986 (S.R.(N.I.), 1986, No. 47), dated 17th February 1986, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be revoked. That the Legal Aid (Assessment of Resources) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1986 (S.R.(N.I.), 1986, No. 46), dated 17th February 1986, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th February, be revoked.

Mr. Speaker

If the House agrees, so be it.

Mr. Brown

I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the Government's cuts in legal aid eligibility thresholds. In order to facilitate the contributions of other hon. Members, my remarks will be brief. I understand that the Solicitor-General intends simply to reply to the debate rather than make an opening speech. That is perfectly acceptable to me, and I acknowlege that no discourtesy is intended.

This is the first time since the inception of the legal aid scheme in 1950 that people have been taken out of the scheme by legislation. The Government are reducing by one sixth the sums allowable in respect of spouses, children and dependent relatives when calculating the disposable income of an applicant for legal aid. The present figure of 50 per cent. above the supplementary benefit allowance is being reduced to 25 per cent. above that allowance. Perhaps it will be helpful if I set out how disposable income is calculated, and then the House will more readily understand the cut.

The method of calculation of disposable income is to take gross household income, deduct tax and national insurance contributions, add any child benefits received and then deduct a sum equivalent to 50 per cent. of the supplementary benefit allowance in respect of certain categories. That figure of 50 per cent. is being reduced to 25 per cent. by the regulations we are praying against. The categories of dependants fall into two subsections. First, in the case of the non-earning spouse the cash figure per week is being reduced from £34.50 to £28.75. There are four separate categories for a child or a dependant; separately they are all being reduced. For a child under the age of 11 years, the sum of £15.50 is being reduced to £12.91. For a child aged 11 to 15 years, the figure of £22.65 is being reduced to £18.88. For a child aged 16 to 17 years, the sum is being reduced from £27.30 to £22.75. For a dependant over the age of 18 years, the sum of £35.40 is being reduced to £29.50 per week.

When these deductions have been made, the calculation continues by deducting rent and mortgage repayments and rates and work-related expenses. If this figure is above the annual sum of £5,415, the applicant will no longer be eligible for legal aid. If the sum is below £2,255, he will be eligible for free legal aid. In betweeen those two figures, he will be asked to pay a contribution towards his costs of about a quarter of his disposable income above the sum of £2,255.

The principle under which the separate orders have been made is the same for Scotland, and indeed Northern Ireland, as it is for England and Wales. I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Falkirk, East, (Mr. Ewing) and for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) hope to say something about these matters later. The Government will argue that, nevertheless, these cuts will mean that families will still receive an allowance in excess of the supplementary benefits allowance. As far as that goes, it is true.

The charge against the Government is twofold: first, substantial numbers of people who are entitled to free legal aid will have to make a financial contribution; and, secondly, people presently entitled to legal aid, albeit with a contribution, will become ineligible.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that about 250,000 people will have to pay a contribution towards legal aid and that another 1,000 will effectively be disqualified from legal aid. That is a reduction of only 0.5 per cent. Surely that is not a large reduction compared with the number of people entitled to legal aid.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman may or may not be correct, because he is talking about what will happen. The figures are not so wide of the mark in terms of those who need to take the advice of a solicitor and apply for legal aid. For every person who needs to make an application to a solicitor for legal aid, a much larger number have a potential need for legal aid. That may concern the overwhelming majority of our citizens. It is like saying that only one person claims on his house insurance but many more people are insured. Every potential user of legal services, as well as the much smaller number who use those services, is affected by the cuts.

The cuts will obviously affect families with children, and, perhaps less obviously, a married couple where one spouse is a non-earner. They will affect a single person with a child and a single or married person with a dependent relative. In some cases, the people who are treated most harshly will be those who are taken out of the system altogether, because they will lose the protection of the upper thresholds on contributions under the present scheme.

This is all being done to save money. The Attorney-General told my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) that about £7.5 million in a full year is involved. It speaks volumes of the Government that this cut is made in this way. Criticisms of the legal aid scheme have reached such a pass that the Lord Chancellor has been sued collectively by the Bar in his own courts. Many skilled practitioners have expressed fears for the system's survival. It is no longer possible adequately to cross-subsidise legal aid work with other work, nor do I see why firms should have to do so.

Instead of taking money out of the system, the Government should have examined some of the false economies, bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in the court system which increase the costs to the legal aid scheme and the client. The Lord Chancellor shows no inclination to look at those matters or at anything else that does not suit him.

The legal profession has expressed strong opposition to the cuts, not least because the extra expense will undoubtedly deter some people from seeking the professional advice that their situation requires. The profession has been outspoken in its criticism of the Government on this issue, but I shall conclude by cheering up the Solicitor-General by reading him some criticism, naturally unfounded, of the Opposition Front Bench on this issue. An article on 4 April in the New Law Journal refers to our deliberations. It is headed "Lords criticise legal aid cuts" and states: The recent cuts in legal aid eligibility have been criticised in the House of Lords but allowed through the Commons on the nod as the Opposition failed to mount a challenge. It continued:

The Commons did not consider the cuts at all. The Law Society, which has taken the lead in fighting the Government measures, is disappointed at the failure of the Opposition to arrange time for a debate. The Shadow law officers, John Morris QC and Nick Brown, had both indicated that they were against the new regulations. Apart from anything else, I would not want readers of the New Law Journal to get the idea that I arranged debates in the Commons, although it would be satisfying to do so. Those who purchase that journal have a right to expect that the criticism in it is based on fact. Our prayers against the regulations were tabled a month before the article appeared. It is blatantly dishonest and an insult to the House, both Government and Opposition, to suggest that such an issue would not be considered by the Commons. Our objections were a matter of record, as was the Government's intention to find time—Government time, I hasten to acknowledge—for a debate.

I urge the Government even at this late stage to withdraw these cuts and instead to take a different direction, giving more measured consideration to the recommendations of the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal aid and taking an overall view of all the legal aid system's problems rather than just filching money from it.

10.19 pm
Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)

I wish to make a short speech. I will not follow the speech we have just heard in detail. There are occasions on which I would argue that we are not facing up to our responsibilities on certain aspects of legal aid.

There are difficulties in the payment of lawyers appearing in court at a junior level. However, I wish to make one simple point and it ought to go out from the House tonight—we are not reducing legal aid. Since 1979 legal aid has doubled in real terms.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

So what?

Mr. Miscampbell

One may equally ask what other aspects of Government expenditure have doubled in real terms since we have been in office.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

What about unemployment?

Mr. Miscampbell

That is what I would describe as a good cheap point. This year we are spending £380 million on legal aid, which is an increase of 15 per cent. All those who have argued today—there has also been argument about the guillotine motion—about social security would be happy if there had been a 15 per cent. increase for other social services. This increase is five times what the Government have given to other areas.

The rise in the value of legal aid, which has occurred in the past six years, is in total contra-distinction to what happened under the last Labour Government. I do not wish to go back and back, but all the way through the seventies legal aid was starved. The only substantial increase occurred in the Labour Government's last months of office in 1979.

Nobody wants cuts of any kind and we would all argue against them. However, we have to face the fact that our resources are not limitless. We often listen to those who claim that Socialism is the language of priority, but Opposition Members are not facing-up to the fact that in spite of the difficulties—they know that I am prepared to argue the corner of education and social services—funding of the service has doubled. It has been recognised that only about 1,000 people are affected.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept the Law Society's estimate that 9,000 people will be required to make a contribution to Legal Aid who were not previously required to do so? That is a 20 per cent. increase in that category. What is his comment on that?

Mr. Miscampbell

I will certainly not argue on matters of detail. In principle, I accept what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said.

A quarter of million people receive legal aid. This issue must be put into perspective. At the top end of the scale, before one receives any legal aid, one is earning £1 3,000 a year and has two children. With four children, the level is as high as £16,000 a year. Of those who receive legal aid, 80 per cent. make no contribution.

We have heard of the calculations and reductions that are made. Although the Government are technically seeking reductions in certain areas we are applying our minds to our limited resources. In the past seven years we have doubled the value of legal aid in real terms. We are not in any realistic sense cutting legal aid.

10.24 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I hope that we can agree about the purpose of legal aid—it is designed to ensure access to the courts for those who cannot otherwise afford it. I am pleased to see the Solicitor-General nodding in agreement with that proposition. The regulations are evidence of the fact that the Government are choosing to dilute that principle.

I would welcome the Government reforming or rationalising the legal aid system to make it more efficient, effective and available to those who need it. That is especially true for industrial tribunals, an area in which there is manifest injustice because of the problems of cost faced by applicants.

We welcome the opportunity to debate the regulations. The problem with them is that they attack the intended beneficiaries of legal aid. As the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) said, the regulations cut eligibility for legal aid for the first time for 36 years. The consequences are serious.

The regulations hit applicants with families—often those who, perhaps because they have dependants, have the greatest need of legal aid to right wrongs. A person might have been injured in a motor accident and be unable to maintain his previous level of work and support for his family. Such a case would be typical of those who will be affected by the cuts.

The cuts mean that people with dependants will find it more difficult to obtain their rightful legal remedies. They will be obliged to make larger contributions to their legal aid. The number of people who will have to contribute to their legal aid will increase, according to the Law Society's estimate, by as many as 9,000, or 20 per cent.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

If I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman correctly, he is suggesting that the typical person who will be affected is injured and out of work. Such a person would always get legal aid because he would not be earning and would probably be on supplementary benefit.

Mr. Carlile

The hon. Gentleman will know that there are many people whose livelihood, although not totally lost, is seriously affected by accidents such as I have mentioned. The hon. Gentleman knows from his experience in legal practice that claims for continuing loss of earnings are made in such actions. Many people might fall into that category and be affected by the changes.

Dependants' allowances, which are used in the assessment of financial eligibility, are to be cut by 16.6 per cent. and the annual allowance for a child of 16 or less will be reduced from £1,420 to £1,183. Perhaps the Government have found some miraculous means of bringing up children more cheaply. Is this a part of the Conservative economic miracle? If it is, perhaps the Solicitor-General would be kind enough to let the rest of us, who find that the cost of keeping our families is increasing, into the secret. I hope that the Solicitor-General will have the grace to admit that the effect will be felt exclusively by families with children, and that the larger the family, the harder it will be felt. The changes will affect especially families with three or four children and damage civil legal aid and the green form scheme.

As a London solicitor, an experienced legal aid practitioner and an expert on legal aid, Mr. Glasser, has said, the longer-term effect of this decision gives great cause for concern. The next supplementary benefits uprating has been announced and it will be just over 1 per cent. If average earnings continue to rise by over 5 per cent., next year there is likely to be a drastic fall in eligibility for legal aid in the foreseeable future, perhaps returning us to the situation that existed in the 1970s and which, it has to be said, was partially attributable to Labour Governments.

By making an important cut now in allowances for family groups most vulnerable to a drop in eligibility, the Lord Chancellor has ensured that, as the upper limit effectively drops towards the level around which most family incomes are distributed, the loss of eligibility for these family groups will be more rapid and sharp.

Mr. Derek Spencer (Leicester, South)

The hon. and learned Gentleman used the "cut". Does he agree that, even after the present adjustment, the annual increase will be about 15 per cent.? Is not "cut" a rather curious word to describe that?

Mr. Carlile

I disagree entirely with the hon. and learned Gentleman. If one accepts the premise that legal aid is intended to give access to the law to those who would not otherwise have it, yet one is making the law less accessible to people who are on the income margins affected by these regulations, and if one is depriving some of them of legal aid altogether, then there is indeed a cut, as I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will understand, in the number of people who are having their rights wronged by the court. I spoke earlier of the Law Society's figure of 9,000 extra people required to make a contribution for the first time to their legal aid. There is a danger that we are talking not just about 9,000 people but about 9,000 potential injustices which those people will not be able to afford to have put right.

It is surprising that the Government are choosing this route of cutting legal aid for certain groups when similar savings might have been made by simplifying the method by which assessments are administered. The Rayner report suggested as far back as three years ago that that sort of simplification should take place. These regulations are in direct contradiction to the recommendations last year in the 34th report of the Legal Aid Advisory Committee, which recommended that there should be wider financial availability of legal aid and advice. It is not the first time that the Government have ignored the objective advice of advisory committees, and one fears for the future of that committee too. No wonder the Government tried to rush through these regulations when nobody was looking by laying them on the Table nearly two weeks before they were published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

These cuts are another example of cuts without consultation. One would have thought that the litigation about criminal legal aid fees that was recently before the courts, would have taught the Government a lesson about making cuts without consultation with the professions and agencies that help those who have to go to law or feel it necessary to go to law. Apparently the Government have not learnt the lesson of the need for consultation.

I am afraid that, however the Solicitor-General—I am sure with his usual style and elegance—dresses up the cuts in the regulations, he will be applying only thin wrapping. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) correctly castigated the New Law Journal for one of its frequent inaccuracies. Perhaps I read it more often than he does and for that reason I am almost immune to the effect of those inaccuracies. Yet the New Law Journal rightly described the damaging effect of these changes. The Government ought to recognise that effect and withdraw the regulations because of their result for the ordinary people of this country.

10.35 pm
Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Before I begin my speech I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on the outstanding work that he has done since taking up the office of Solicitor-General. My brief experience of the law leads me to have nothing but enormous admiration for the work that he has done.

As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) just said, legal aid is about justice. Justice is the greatest product that our nation has given to the world. The great problem with which the Lord Chancellor always has to contend is the price that has to be paid for justice. A very difficult balance has to he struck. I wish my hon. and learned Friend all good luck in continuing to assess this balance.

I should like to draw attention to two vital aspects in drawing this balance. The first is the impact of legal aid on the carriage of justice. The second is false claims.

I know of a case where a fraudulent claim almost resulted in a grotesque miscarriage of justice. My hon. and learned Friend will readily understand that access to legal aid can have a very distorting effect upon justice. If it is given only to one party to a legal dispute, effectively it provides an open cheque book to that party. If that party to the dispute decides to play a delaying game, it can outlast the other party. A gross miscarriage can occur, even before the case reaches the court, let alone comes before the court. Some thought must be given to this problem.

As for false claims, I understand that it is very difficult to examine the statement of means of an applicant for legal aid, at least before the trial. As I have already said, miscarriage of justice can often take place before a case comes to court. In order to examine statements of means, access should be available to both sides, or to Law Officers, before the trial. There are examples of people with very considerable assets who have filed claims. Either they have property or, what is less common but equally unfair, they have access to funds that may even take the form of overseas trusts. Surely they should be considered as part of the available assets in trying to aim for justice in allocating legal aid.

Legal aid offers considerable access to justice to people who are poor, but justice should not be offered to the poor alone. Justice must be available to all. That is the most important criterion that the Lord Chancellor's office must observe in the administration of legal aid.

10.38 pm
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

I am always grateful for the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). I listened with some interest to his very kind remarks about his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General. When he referred to the outstanding work that he has done, I thought that he was referring to the Westland affair. His sterling work reflects great credit upon him and his Department. I say that in all seriousness and with a great sense of purpose, though with not a little mischief.

The points that have been made on these prayers are important. Although I shall confine my remarks to the orders that relate to Northern Ireland, the fact is that the hon. and learned Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) referred to the fact that legal aid cases since 1979 had doubled.

As a general rule I think it is right to say that we are following a pattern in the United States, where there is more litigation than there used to be and there are more people seeking to enforce their legal rights. As a consequence, it is not surprising that legal aid has had this increase—I think the figure has double since 1979. That is not necessarily such a bad thing. It means that more poeple are seeking to redress their grievances and are availing themselves of the legal aid system. Therefore, while the Government must look at this aspect of public expenditure, they must look at it in relation to the law as a whole.

I refer now, if I may, to the two statutory instruments concerning Northern Ireland. In the case of Northern Ireland, there is a great deal of concern, notably of such bodies as the Committee on the Adninistration of Justice, that with lower living standards in Northern Ireland and more numerous families any change in the formula by rmulawhich legal aid is calculated will harder hit those particularly in need. I will not go through the formula, because my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) has done that in his able speech in opening the debate.

It is as well in this instance to restate the principle on which aid is granted. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) touched on that in his speech. In the first instance, when we are dealing with civil proceedings, the plaintiff must show that he has a case and that on its merits it is worthy of pursuit in a court of law. In the second instance, one has to calculate the basis on which legal aid is to be granted. It may well be that there is nothing in the regulations that prevents legal aid from eventually being granted, only it places the bar somewhat higher for poorer people. It may take some of them out of legal aid altogether. They will have been pushed through what is known as a threshold, that is, the eligibility limit. It may mean that their own contribution to the cost of the case is such that they cannot proceed.

Mr. Nicholls

On eligibility, a married man with four children would have to be earning in excess of £16,108 before he was deprived of legal aid entirely. That would mean that a Member of the House would qualify for subsidised legal advice out of the taxpayers' money. I know that the hon. Gentleman will admit that there has to be some priority in the spending of taxpayers' money. Can he in his heart of hearts be satisfied with a situation where a person can be earning that amount of money and still qualify for subsidised legal advice?

Mr. Bell

The essence of legal aid is to provide funds for those who need them be fore a court. There was a recent case of a murder trial where an airline pilot had an income of £100,000. Nevertheless, he was able to be given legal aid. The principles of the calculation of legal aid and its attribution are complex. What we are dealing with tonight is a clear principle of a clear reduction coming from the Lord Chancellor's Department from 50 per cent. to 25 per cent. based upon a supplementary benefit contribution. We are trying to narrow the debate to how it will affect people at the bottom end of the social scale.

When I was referring to the fact that the people who come forward for legal aid have a case and that is accepted when the legal aid is granted, what is to happen to those who find themselves unable now, because they have in a sense fallen off the bottom end, to get legal aid? Their sense of grievance, the grievance that they seek to redress, they can no longer take to the court. What are they to do with it—are they to spend the rest of their lives with a sense of bitterness that they could have gone to a court and, now that the criteria for legal aid have changed, they are not able to prosecute their case before the courts?

In 1984–85 there were 14,500 applications for civil legal aid in Northern Ireland. That was, indeed, a 16 per cent. increase in the previous year. Criminal legal aid is treated differently in Northern Ireland from the way in which it is treated in the rest of the United Kingdom, like so many other things. The applicants for criminal legal aid are not asked to make contributions once they have satisfied a so-called means test.

In the past in Northern Ireland lawyers, interest groups and legal aid groups have been involved in an advertising campaign to try to persuade people to seek legal aid and advice. They emphasised that access to such advice was easy. It is hardly surprising that the increases in eligibility levels undermine the image that those groups are trying to create—that legal aid is there for all with a grievance, with the minimum restriction on calculating disposable income. Equally, the increases in the eligibility levels reinforce the prejudice against legal institutions which the pressure groups were trying to break down.

It is felt equally that the cuts will have a more severe effect on women in Northern Ireland, many of whom need legal advice on marital breakdown and who need to take out matrimonial injunctions. Of course, women are more likely to find themselves in a low pay structure and will be less willing to seek advice because their contributions to legal fees will inevitably increase.

The changes which the Government propose also inflict a penalty on those who work. The unemployed in Northern Ireland will still mercifully be able to receive free legal aid, but those on low wages, who stay off the dole, are also likely to have legal problems. They too will have to make a higher contribution towards legal fees.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) has dealt with the effect of the orders on certain categories. For example, a married couple with three children would qualify for free aid if their income is £4,847; now the level will be £4,442. A single parent with two dependants would qualify for legal aid with an income of £5,529; this level has been reduced to £5,240.

What is all this about? Conservative Members who have intervened in the debate to try to explain that this is not a cut have shown a kind of psychosis. Of course, it is a cut. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery made the point that it is designed to save the Exchequer money. The Times quoted a figure of £7.5 million a year. It is the long arm of the Treasury reaching out to reduce legal aid because expenditure on it has increased since 1979. Anyone would think that money spent on legal aid was going abroad. After all, since 1979, if that is to be our benchmark, £70,000 million has gone abroad and the Government congratulate themselves on that figure. Every penny spent on legal aid not only assists those who are in pursuit of justice but never leaves our shores and is part and parcel of the economy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East said that it is all to do with saving money. The Lord Chancellor has said that legal aid cannot be considered in isolation from the many other competing demands on public expenditure. His remarks in another place have found an echo in this Chamber tonight. It is useless for the Government to argue that public expenditure is for ever on the increase when they nitpick their way to reductions by hitting the very people who have no need to be hit—the people at the lower end of the social scale who are as much entitled to legal aid as anyone else who can meet the criteria on disposable income.

The Law Society has been mentioned in this brief debate. It is on record as saying tht the cut would hit particularly poorer married couples with children. The Legal Aid Advisory Committee, which is the Lord Chancellor's legal watchdog, has said that the cuts would hit people least able to protect themselves". One studious commentator has described the moves of the Lord Chancellor's Department as "a rationing device".

I draw my remarks to a close with a series of general observations. The order before the House tonight is a financial device—no more or less. It is aimed at reducing the amounts paid out in legal aid, and the entire legal aid budget has been estimated at £320 million a year. The purpose and intent of this money is to assist those who wish to appear before the courts. Their actions or defences cannot be regarded in purely financial terms. The money is there to assist in the redress of grievances.

I would hesitate to criticise the Lord Chancellor. We all know the profound regard that he has for our legal traditions and the law of the land, but his profession has had to keel haul him before the Lord Chief Justice on a matter of payment of legal aid to barristers. To add insult to injury, the Treasury has demanded from his eminent Lord Chancellor's purse a £7 million reduction in legal aid.

The cuts must mortify the Lord Chancellor, as they do the Members in the Chamber tonight. In the end, it is the small things that count. To be sure, the Government will one day be judged on their wider record, but for this evening they shall be judged on their erosion of the principle of legal aid, their attack on vulnerable people who need all the help that they can get before the courts, and on their disregard for justice and desire to deny it to all. Drop by drop, they say, the cup is filled. For this Government, the cup must be close to running over.

10.53 pm
Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

I must declare an interest as a lawyer. The legal aid fund is being increased by £380 million, which is a 15 per cent. increase on previous years, and five times the budget rate of increase in Government expenditure nationally. Money circulates. When it goes into legal aid, part of it comes back into the lawyers' pockets in one form or another. Of course, all those who have spoken, including the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), will benefit to some extent from this.

I understand the Government's deep concern, because since 1979 expenditure on the legal aid scheme has doubled in real terms. That is a worrying figure. If we consider it as against other Government expenditure—realising that legal aid is not different from education or anything else and is part of the national cake—we must conform with other expenditure. It cannot go on for ever expanding. There are other competing interests in Government expenditure, and we must be worried about that. That worry is exemplified in the regulations. There have been sensible and good reasons for some of that expenditure. Formal arrangements, such as the duty solicitor scheme in magistrates courts, have been introduced. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act introduced the 24-hour duty solicitor scheme for suspects in custody. That will be an expensive scheme. Another example is the extension device for proceedings in the mental health review tribunal.

As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said, the purpose of the legal aid scheme is to provide access to the courts for those who would be unable to have that access but for legal aid. That is a noble and proper purpose.

I hope that my record in the House in speaking on matters of concern and civil rights is matched by the Opposition. They have no right to claim that they are the only ones who are worried about civil rights, any more than Conservative Members do. We have spoken many times on the subject. It is wrong for us to think that there is equality before the law as obviously there is not.

For the very poor or for those who are not very wealthy, there is access to legal aid and to the courts. The very wealthy also have access to the courts. However, the vast number of people in the middle have to think long and hard before they have access to the courts. They must pay for advice and go some way down the line before they settle their cases as they simply cannot afford the costs or the risk of going to litigation. Those people are not and have never been eligible for legal aid.

Under the legal aid scheme a man with two children can earn a little more than £13,000 before losing his entitlement to legal aid and the limit for a man with four children is £16,000. Those figures represent middle incomes. While I accept that there may be some people who will lose out as a result of those limits—and my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) referred to 1,000 people being affected—a large number of people, the silent majority which we always hear about, cannot in civil proceedings afford to have easy recourse to the courts.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Croydon, North-West)

While I entirely accept my hon. Friend's point that the civil courts are a venue which present some difficulty to some middle income earners, does my hon. Friend agree that there is still a good system of legal aid operating in the criminal courts and that it is rare to find a man on a charge before a criminal court who is unfairly treated in the granting of legal aid? Does he also accept that there is much to be said for telling the huge international concerns which come to this country to use our courts that it is time that they paid their way in our courts?

Mr. Ashby

As I have been discussing civil matters, I agree that this country is often selected as a venue for commercial court matters as ours is the best law and we should be justly proud of that. In a sense, such actions are importers of money to this country and they act as an invisible earner. However, there is a case for a charge on the use of the courts by such international concerns. There is, of course, to some extent already a charge as the writs are costly. But some of these actions go on for some considerable time, and that aspect could be examined. That could have extensive ramifications as hitherto access to the courts—not to the lawyers but to the use of the courts—has been an undeniable right of everyone. Any changes in such matters would be fundamental and must be given very careful consideration.

I wanted to discuss the criminal legal aid scheme because I have considerable experience of its workings. I am appalled at the way in which legal aid is sometimes doled out by the courts. There is inadequate investigation of those who are granted legal aid. I frequently represent people who I discover during the trial are rather wealthy. Often the criminals know how to manage their affairs so that their wives and girl friends technically own property which belongs to the criminals. There are insufficient resources to investigate those who are granted legal aid to discover whether they are truly eligible for it. Too often, the word of the criminal is taken at face value.

It would be valuable if those who grant legal aid sat in court and heard what criminals say when they give evidence, because frequently they let the cat out of the bag. Recently, a client of mine said, "I was not there at the time; I was on my motor yacht." The fact that he had a motor yacht did not appear on his legal aid forth. Judges are too slow to pick up such evidence. Judges should examine legal aid applications when they hear such evidence and refer them straight back with a transcript so that the matter is corrected.

Mr. Spencer

Does my hon. Friend agree that, 20 years ago, the privately paid case in the criminal courts was comparatively common? Nowadays it is comparatively uncommon, but defendants are much better off.

Mr. Ashby

I could not agree more. However, too often, legal aid is granted, the assessment is made later and people might be assessed almost to a 100 per cent. contribution. Those people should not be on legal aid at all. They are not eligible for legal aid, but it is doled out without too much thought.

Recently, a court in north London started to examine carefully all legal aid applications, but what happened? The court was picketed by Left-wing lawyers, who would not allow the court to do its proper job. They urged that legal aid be made freely available to all, regardless of their financial means. That is another example of the difficulty of administering the scheme.

Courts should take a strong line; they should examine legal aid applications minutely and they should be ready to reject applications. That would increase the amount of money available to those who need it, which is how the legal aid system should work.

Another example that has been mentioned in the debate is divorce. In divorce cases, legal aid is freely available to both parties. Couples fight tooth and nail in the courts and wil 1 not settle or accommodate each other. They can afford to be unreasonable because they both receive legal aid. The Law Society should examine more carefully some of those cases and should be more prepared to withdraw legal aid if the parties are being unreasonable. That would save the legal aid fund a great deal.

More money is being spent on legal aid, but great savings could be made if legal aid was granted with more care.

11.3 pm

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) has put the debate in a nutshell. The debate is about the Government's attempt to save money on legal aid. The hon. Gentleman said that he favoured the proposals because they would lead to a saving in the money spent on legal aid, which reinforces the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) in opening the debate.

The hon. and learned Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) said that expenditure on legal aid had doubled since 1979. That is simply because there are far more poor people now than there were in 1979; more people qualify for legal aid than did in 1979; there are more people with legal problems than there were in 1979. In many ways, the reason why legal aid expenditure has doubled since 1979 lies in the Government's policies, which have inflicted all these problems on people from Land's End to John O'Groats. The cost of legal aid has, of course, escalated in line with the increase in the problems faced by people throughout the country.

The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) made a point that I just do not believe can be substantiated. It does not stand examination—the idea that, because someone has access to legal aid, somehow or other it could lead to a miscarriage of justice or a wrong verdict.

I have found that, in my years here, debates on legal aid—

Mr. John Browne


Mr. Ewing

I shall give way in a minute.

Debates on legal aid have been made up of lawyers and those of us who, like myself, bring common sense to these matters. I just make the point that legal aid is not for the lawyers; it is for the clients. These statutory instruments tonight are not damaging the lawyers, they are damaging the clients.

Mr. John Browne

I did not mean to insinuate that judges would make a wrong decision because of legal aid. I have the very highest respect for the judiciary. What I was saying was that a miscarriage of justice could occur even before the case got to court because the person without legal aid could be frozen out: he could not afford to let matters escalate along with the one who had access to legal aid. It was not a question of the judge but of justice in the absolute.

Mr. Ewing

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Winchester for that extended explanation, that a miscarriage of justice might occur because the litigant without legal aid would be frozen out.

Turning briefly to the two instruments dealing with Scotland, I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that it is a tragedy that these instruments have been introduced at a time when we have a Legal Aid Bill, which attempts to reform the legal aid system in Scotland, which has just passed its stages in the other place and which is about to come to the House for our consideration and then go into Committee. The Government, and particularly the Scottish Office, have got it absolutely wrong in introducing these instruments, which will deny access to legal aid, if the figure of 9,000 for England and Wales is correct, for about 1,000 people in Scotland.

That is a not significant number. I know that hon. Members are inclined to suggest that 1,000 people is not many, but it is a very high percentage of those who find themselves before the court. The true percentage is related not to the total population but to the number of those who find themselves before the court.

Right hon. and hon. Members who represent English and Welsh constituencies will appreciate that the legal aid system in Scotland is different from that in England and Wales. For instance, criminal legal aid in Scotland is granted by the court on the first appearance of the accused before the court. We have had recent instances where the court has refused legal aid because of the criteria used—the criterion of means and the criterion of whether it is in the interests of justice. There have been recent cases in Scotland where the court has refused to grant legal aid because, in the view of the court, it would not have been in the interest of justice to grant it.

The position is different in respect of civil legal aid, where the application goes before the legal aid committee. An attempt is being made in the Bill that will shortly come before the House to submit applications for criminal, as well as civil, legal aid to the legal aid committee. A number of other changes in the legal aid procedures are also proposed in that measure.

My hon. Friends and I regard it as a tragedy that these instruments should have been introduced to apply throughout the United Kingdom, because they will mean that people who do not now make a contribution to legal aid costs will have to contribute in future. But for Scotland, this is a particularly inopportune time to introduce such provisions, when we are about to consider a piece of legislation that will radically alter the legal aid procedure in Scotland.

We condemn what the Government propose tonight, and that is why we shall vote against the proposals tonight.

11.11 pm
The Solicitor-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

Although this has been a short debate—or perhaps because of that—important and succinct points have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) for understanding my desire not to speak immediately following him but to reply to the debate, thus enabling more hon. Members to take part.

I was overwhelmed by the compliment paid to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne). Law Officers are always grateful for any such compliments that come their way. He made another serious point when he said that the real question was the price that had to be paid for justice. It is indeed difficult to determine whether there is a right price.

My hon. Friend's main point is a matter of great seriousness in some instances. He pointed out that the grant of legal aid could, if not granted following proper scrutiny, constitute or give rise to injustice. Those with practical knowledge of the courts will agree that a legally aided plantiff with a nil contribution can exercise what does not fall far short of a blackmailing power over somebody with a good defence because he has nothing to lose in a pecuniary sense. I will draw to the attention of the Lord Chancellor my hon. Friend's plea for greater scrutiny of applications for legal aid.

That point was also made, though in a different context, by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), who spoke of dishonest applications for legal aid. It is not sufficiently understood that if somebody believes, perhaps as a party, that a fraudulent or dishonest application for legal aid has been made and has succeeded, it is open to him to draw the attention of the Law Society, the DHSS or the Lord Chancellor's Department to his suspicions, and they will be investigated. Indeed, information of that kind would be welcomed.

Mr. John Browne

The access to the information or the instigating of an inquiry seems to occur after the trial. Is it possible that that opportunity would occur before or during a trial?

The Solicitor-General

That can be done at any time.

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) said something very kind, for which I am grateful. However, he proceeded to a discussion of the conditions in Northern Ireland. The essence of what he said was that in Northern Ireland there was a disproportionate number of people on lower living standards and that they would be harder hit by the effect of these orders. All that I can say that has any relevance to tonight's discussion is that traditionally Northern Ireland has followed Great Britain in the financial limits for legal aid. If there is a discrepancy now, it is probable that there was a discrepancy previously. The hon. Gentleman may want to raise that question on a future occasion, but, with respect, I do not think that it is at the centre of what we are discussing tonight.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) twitted the Government. He said that what we are doing is contrary to the recommendation of the legal aid advisory committee and that there were numerous instances of the Government failing to follow the objective advice of independent committees. I remember that last night we spent some time on the discussion of the rectitude or otherwise of the Government following the advice of an independent committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman is very versatile in his criticisms. I discovered that he voted against the Government last night and voted against the Auld report. However, we have to do what we can. We try to please some of the people some of the time. I am grateful for all the other contributions to the debate, and I shall come to them shortly.

It is true, and it would be idle to deny, that the change represented by the regulations is unwelcome. Of course it is unwelcome. It would be equally idle to deny that there is any reason for it except a financial one. Of course that is the reason. However, I think that the House would want to assess fairly the merit or demerit of the change made by the regulations. If it is to do that, it will want to see the change in its context.

The context is the very swift acceleration in the cost of the legal aid scheme each year. Of course we have to acknowledge that the change is in part because it is demand-led. That point was made by the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing). In one sense, I think that it is a tribute to the Lord Chancellor's very effective programme for the increase in the number of courts. Each year so many more legal aid cases are being disposed of and that increases the cost. However, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell ) said, after the change has been made which came into force on 12 March, we shall be spending £380 million on legal aid in this financial year. That is twice the amount spent in 1979, after allowing for inflation.

I shall be coming to the improvements we have made to the legal aid scheme. Although part of the cost is due to its being demand—led, part is also due to the improvements we made but our predecessors did not.

Mr. Alex Carlile

I think that I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman mention the increase in the number of courts. Some Conservative Members said that what we are discussing tonight is not cuts. In the context of those comments and of what the Solicitor-General has just said about the increase in the number of courts, is he aware that on the Wales and Chester circuit, which covers the whole of Wales and Cheshire, there is to be a cut of about 20 per cent. in the number of Crown court sittings in this financial year because the Lord Chancellor's Department has been ordered by the Treasury to make cuts in its budget? The result of those cuts on the circuit will be that one fifth of the court sittings will cease. Is that consistent with the boast the hon. and learned Gentleman makes about the Government providing more courts?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. and learned Gentleman will want to raise that—perhaps he has already done so—with the Lord Chancellor. The administration of each circuit is a matter for him. It is indisputable that there has been a substantial increase in the number of courts and court cases over the past five years, and that has played its part in the cost of the legal aid scheme.

The increase in what we shall be spending in legal aid is 15 per cent. this year over last year, five times the projected increase in Government spending on a national scale, as a whole. Such a rate of increase could not be permitted to go unrestrained, especially when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West said, so many of the competing demands on Government expenditure on social budgets, among other things, are very worthy in their nature. If the House is being fair, it will acknowledge that it is impossible for legal aid to be looked at in isolation from other demands made upon public expenditure.

I believe that my hon. Friends and I have already said enough in this short debate to establish that we are not cutting spending on legal aid. We can argue about whether we are cutting legal aid, and I suppose that if one narrows to any extent the eligibility in any single class, however narrow, it can be said that one is cutting legal aid. What matters is whether there is any cut in the expenditure on legal aid. Far from it. All that there is is a reining in on the rate of increase, to save £7.5 million.

I have acknowledged, because it is fair to do so, that legal aid is demand-led, but a further reason for increased expenditure is that the Government have substantially extended the scheme; hence its cost. I was disappointed to find that the Government were being painted by the Opposition Front Bench as being anti-legal aid. I fear that that charge compels me to make a comparison between the record of this Government and that of their predecessor. The hon. Member for Falkirk, East made no mention of any improvement, but mention has been made on the Conservative Back Benches.

My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has introduced formal arrangements for the duty solicitor scheme in magistrates' courts and he has set up the 24-hour duty solicitor scheme for suspects held in custody, and found the resources. The scheme is making steady progress in Birmingham where there is 100 per cent. coverage. Coverage is 60 per cent. in most of the country. It is my noble Friend who has made provision for interim payments for legally aided work, for counsel and solicitors; it is he who has extended assistance by way of representation, to proceedings in the mental health review tribunals; it is he who has increased the capital allowance for ABWOR, as it is horribly called, to £3,000 from £800—

Mr. Nicholas Brown

Small beer.

The Solicitor-General

Well, why was that not done before?

Our predecessors never charged the legal aid scheme with those desirable things. One understands why—because they are expensive, and no doubt the Labour Government had other priorities for their expenditure. It is just that we have found the will and the way.

Mr. Malins

Small beer may be mentioned, but does my hon. and learned Friend accept that professionals are deeply grateful to the Government for the work done for the green form legal aid scheme? The extension and general improvement of the scheme has made an enormous difference and improvement to members of the public who need the scheme and to lawyers. It is a magnificent advance.

The Solicitor-General

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a distinguished practising solicitor. I know that what he says is true.

I therefore suggest to the House that, for a Government supposed to be hostile to legal aid, we seem to have developed a most wayward habit of extending it. By a corresponding paradox, the Labour party, which one understands to be very much in favour and so well disposed towards the scheme, contrived when it was in office, consistently, year after year, to overlook the opportunities that we have been able to take.

This year we have felt obliged to rein in on the extra cost of legal aid. We could have done it by reducing the scope of the scheme. That would have been much more damaging and highly regrettable. We could have reduced the remuneration of practitioners. The Lord Chancellor is hardly noted for a lavish attitude towards fees at the moment, and that would have been self-defeating. We could have made a general reduction in financial limits. That would have affected vastly more people than have been affected by the regulations.

The effect of the measures was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls). A thousand or fewer people out of 250,000 who annually apply for legal aid will be taken out of the legal aid net altogether—less than 0.5 per cent. They will all be people who would have been paying contributions at the higher rate. Eighty per cent. of people who receive legal aid in civil matters pay no contribution. We estimate that that percentage will decrease, but not below 75 per cent. The 5 per cent. affected by the change will be required to pay a small amount.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said that about 9,000 people will be affected, Our best estimate is that it will be about 4,500 people. Anyone on supplementary benefit or anyone whose income is around the supplementary benefit level will still pay nothing. Even those who will be brought into contribution who now receive free legal aid, as well as those who pay contributions and will pay slightly more, have the right, if necessary, to pay by instalments. Frequently, legal aid contributions of £10 a month are paid over two years. That effectively and considerably softens what has been painted as a crippling blow.

There is no self-evidently right level for the relationship between eligibility levels for legal aid and those for supplementary benefit. We have to try to follow the principle that no one should contribute more than he can reasonably be expected to afford. I do not make any apology on the Government's behalf for the fact that the poorest members of society have top priority for legal aid. That is the spirit in which the regulations were formulated and in which I commend them to the House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 107, Noes 176.

Division No. 143] [11.25 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Howells, Geraint
Alton, David Hoyle, Douglas
Ashdown, Paddy Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Beith, A. J. John, Brynmor
Bell, Stuart Johnston, Sir Russell
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Kirkwood, Archy
Blair, Anthony Lamond, James
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Leadbitter, Ted
Boyes, Roland Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Livsey, Richard
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Caborn, Richard Loyden, Edward
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Campbell-Savours, Dale McNamara, Kevin
Canavan, Dennis McWilliam, John
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Madden, Max
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Marek, Dr John
Clarke, Thomas Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Clay, Robert Martin, Michael
Clelland, David Gordon Maxton, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Michie, William
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Corbett, Robin Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Corbyn, Jeremy Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Craigen, J. M. O'Brien, William
Cunliffe, Lawrence Patchett, Terry
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Pendry, Tom
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Pike, Peter
Dewar, Donald Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dixon, Donald Radice, Giles
Dobson, Frank Raynsford, Nick
Dormand, Jack Redmond, Martin
Douglas, Dick Robertson, George
Dubs, Alfred Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Duffy, A. E. P. Rogers, Allan
Eadie, Alex Rowlands, Ted
Eastham, Ken Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Ewing, Harry Skinner, Dennis
Fatchett, Derek Stott, Roger
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Strang, Gavin
Fisher, Mark Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Flannery, Martin Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Foster, Derek Wallace, James
Foulkes, George Wareing, Robert
George, Bruce Wigley, Dafydd
Godman, Dr Norman Winnick, David
Golding, John Young, David (Bolton SE)
Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Hardy, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Haynes, Frank Mr. Chris Smith and
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Mr. Allen McKay.
Home Robertson, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bellingham, Henry
Amess, David Benyon, William
Arnold, Tom Best, Keith
Ashby, David Blackburn, John
Aspinwall, Jack Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Boscawen, Hon Robert
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)
Baldry, Tony Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Batiste, Spencer Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Brooke, Hon Peter Hind, Kenneth
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Browne, John Holt, Richard
Budgen, Nick Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bulmer, Esmond Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Burt, Alistair Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Butcher, John Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Lawler, Geoffrey
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Carttiss, Michael Lord, Michael
Cash, William Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Chapman, Sydney Lyell, Nicholas
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) McCurley, Mrs Anna
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Colvin, Michael Major, John
Conway, Derek Malins, Humfrey
Cope, John Malone, Gerald
Corrie, John Marlow, Antony
Couchman, James Mates, Michael
Cranborne, Viscount Mather, Carol
Currie, Mrs Edwina Maude, Hon Francis
Dorrell, Stephen Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Dover, Den Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Durant, Tony Mellor, David
Dykes, Hugh Merchant, Piers
Eggar, Tim Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Evennett, David Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Eyre, Sir Reginald Miscampbell, Norman
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Fallon, Michael Moate, Roger
Fletcher, Alexander Monro, Sir Hector
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Garel-Jones, Tristan Moore, Rt Hon John
Goodlad, Alastair Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Gower, Sir Raymond Moynihan, Hon C.
Grant, Sir Anthony Neale, Gerrard
Griffiths, Sir Eldon Neubert, Michael
Grylls, Michael Newton, Tony
Hampson, Dr Keith Nicholls, Patrick
Hannam, John Norris, Steven
Harris, David Osborn, Sir John
Hayward, Robert Ottaway, Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Steen, Anthony
Pawsey, James Stern, Michael
Pollock, Alexander Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Portillo, Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Powell, William (Corby) Sumberg, David
Price, Sir David Taylor, John (Solihull)
Raffan, Keith Terlezki, Stefan
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Renton, Tim Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Rhodes James, Robert Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Thurnham, Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Townend, John (Bridlington)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Trippier, David
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Twinn, Dr Ian
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Viggers, Peter
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Waddington, David
Roe, Mrs. Marion Waldegrave, Hon William
Rossi, Sir Hugh Walden, George
Ryder, Richard Waller, Gary
Sackville, Hon Thomas Ward, John
Sayeed, Jonathan Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Watson, John
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Watts, John
Shelton, William (Streatham) Wheeler, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Whitfield, John
Shersby, Michael Whitney, Raymond
Sims, Roger Wilkinson, John
Skeet, Sir Trevor Winterton, Nicholas
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wolfson, Mark
Speed, Keith Wood, Timothy
Speller, Tony
Spencer, Derek Tellers for the Noes:
Spicer, Jim (Dorset W) Mr. Archie Hamilton and
Squire, Robin Mr. Tim Sainsbury.

Question accordingly negatived.